Sports

Putrid NFC North might save Bears yet


Listen up, fans.

Your Bears are right where they want to be — tied for first place in the NFC North!

Yes, they got pounded by the Rams on Sunday, losing 34-14 in that huge new stadium where — yes, sir — they likely will play in the Super Bowl in February.

Why? Because they are tied with the Packers, Vikings and Lions for the NFC North lead. How wonderful!

Of course, all those teams are 0-1. And if they each go 0-17, we might have a coin flip to see who represents the division in the playoffs.

Come to think of it, however, all four can’t go 0-17 because they play one another twice each and somebody usually has to win.

But the NFC North is looking like a race to the mid-bottom, and the Bears are in the pack.

Indeed, the Bears were so awful with a roly-poly offensive line, invisible defense, bizarre quarterback substitutions, coaching from hell and overall malaise that it’s hard to know what they did well or even with mediocrity.

That was Matthew Stafford, the old Lions quarterback, chopping them up after being freed from Detroit and the four-team division that is the worst in football.

Interesting note about Stafford: While he was with the Lions, his defense gave up the second-most points per game in NFL history. Now he’s got Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Co. stopping foes. Free at last!

And here’s something: If you think it’s bad in Chicago, envision the loathing going on in Green Bay after the Packers were roasted by the Saints 38-3, even though Drew Brees is now a TV analyst.

The Packers were a genuine Super Bowl hopeful, led into battle by quarterback hero and three-time NFL most valuable player Aaron Rodgers.

Not only did Rodgers reek in the game, which was played in Jacksonville, Florida, because the Saints were displaced by Hurricane Ida — he was 15-for-28 for 133 yards with zero touchdowns, two interceptions and a 36.8 rating — but he also has a lingering stench because of his curiously fan-offensive offseason behavior.

Last season, Rodgers walked on water in Wisconsin. This season? Not sure he could float in a baby pool.

The Vikings lost in overtime to kid quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals 27-24. And the Lions, well, they’re experts at losing. They got beaten at home 41-33 by the 49ers.

Those poor wretches in Motown have only one playoff victory in the last 58 years. The Lions haven’t even made the postseason since the 2016 season. And you wonder why Stafford is happy to restart his career 2,000 miles to the west?

This brings us to the Bears, whom Stafford toyed with Sunday, throwing for 321 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a career-best 156.1 passer rating. Myself, I didn’t know ratings could go that high.

Luckily, the abysmal Bears defense took some of the heat off the abysmal offensive line. We knew the O-line was bad, but the lousy defense surprised us.

So did the strange insertion of rookie quarterback Justin Fields for Andy Dalton at the oddest moments by coach Matt Nagy. It was almost as though Nagy wanted to make sure viewing audiences were still awake during the rout. Surprise! He’s in!

It’s a blessing the NFC North is so bad. That keeps the Bears in the thick of it.

Maybe all the teams will right themselves and start steamrolling opponents. Maybe the Bears simply will hand Fields the keys to the offense and put Dalton in a rocking chair. Other rookie quarterbacks started Sunday and played well, remember.

But the Bears’ salvation might be the NFC North, where being winless is OK.

I’m reminded here of a tale that nicely describes the varying degrees of wretchedness in some people and, by extension, some teams.

A priest was performing final rights at a cemetery gravesite. Only a couple of people were in attendance. The priest asked for one of them to say good words about the deceased man in the casket before he was buried. Silence.

The priest said he wouldn’t finish the ritual without some kind words about the man. He looked at the two attendees. Silence.

In anger, the priest said no one was leaving until somebody eulogized the dead guy. Right now.

Reluctantly, one of the two men stepped forward, head bowed.

‘‘His brother was worse,’’ he said.

Da Bears!



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